National Geographic : 1974 Jun
to be the key to the success or failure of the climb. Instead of pursuing one crack at a time, he now had to deal with discontinuous cracks -climbing a foot or two up one crack, and then reaching to a completely different one, two or three feet to the side. His goal was a ledge that looked deceptively close but was in fact 30 feet above him. Time seemed to stand still as Dennis placed a skyhook. Then a very special nut-the smallest of all, made of chrome-molybdenum steel and only a sixteenth of an inch thick. Finally another tiny wedge, his most secure anchor in 20 feet. All three of us were so engrossed that to us those moments expanded to contain all reality. The crux of the climb was in Dennis's hands. Finally he yelled down, "Off belay!" He had tied his rope to solid anchors on the shelf above. Now only two moderate leads separated us from our waiting friends. I led one, Dennis the next, and soon we were hauling the last bag onto the flat summit. At dusk we walked down along the cables on the back of the dome and set up camp in the forest near a spring. We had not had hot food or drink for three days, and the tea with its flavor of the aluminum pot seemed the finest liquid we could have tasted. Our beds of pine needles were more comfortable than any mattresses we could imagine. In the morning we watched the sunrise under brewing storm clouds as we hiked the remaining seven miles to the valley floor. At the end of the trail we boarded the public shuttle bus with our heavy packs, dust, and odors. We felt satisfied and yet strangely de pressed-because our adventure was finished. That feeling will disappear only when the next adventure begins. [ tuAn BOYLES "There is no upness comparable to the mountains," wrote Sierra-loving John Muir. His words mirror our feelings as we stand-Doug, Dennis, and I-on Half Dome's summit. We are proud right down to the marrow of our aching bones that we not only achieved this upness on our own, but that we did it without marring the way of those who follow.